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My Cousin Rachel On Stage at 2nd Space

IN THE August 21 ISSUE

FROM THE 2019 Articles,
andTerrance V. Mc Arthur,
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by Terrance Mc Arthur

Daphne du Maurier wrote moody, atmospheric fiction, sometimes paranormal, with love entwined—”romance noir,” where characters with a happy ending aren’t really that happy. Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, The Birds, Frenchman’s Creek…and My Cousin Rachel. The Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre currently presents a tense, breathtaking adaptation through October 13.

In the 1840s of the Cornwall district that du Maurier loved, Philip (Anthony teNyenhuis) inherited the estate of a cousin who had raised him. The cousin died in Italy after marrying Rachel (Brooke Aiello), a widow and distant cousin, but neglected to sign a will that included her. Rachel comes to Cornwall, and Philip becomes infatuated, mesmerized by the glamorous, older woman. His lawyer/guardian (Noel Adams) has doubts and suspicions about the lady, but Philip’s misgivings are swept away by love. After that, things get…complicated.

Philip (Anthony teNyenhuis) and Rachel (Brooke Aiello),

Is Rachel a gold-digging spendthrift? Could she be a killer? Aiello dominates the stage with confidence and elegance, the crystalline sound of her voice spinning a cocoon around the listener. I have been a fan since 2006’s Woodward Shakespeare production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where she became “My Queen.” This is a woman who can do just about anything she wants, onstage (She’s even played Hamlet!). What is Rachel? When you hear Brooke, she can be all possibilities…and more.

Philip could be played as nothing more than a lovesick boy, but teNyenhuis invests him with layers that build and strip away in dazzling complexity. Innocence turns to obsession, teetering on the edge of insanity. He becomes a Jekyll/Hyde, making rash decisions, out of control and out of hope. He shows much more than the mild roles he has usually assayed would allow. It isn’t often an actor gets to play a besotted young man and a dangerous maniac in the same evening.

Emily Kearns begins the night as a pampered, spoiled girlfriend, Philip’s presumed future bride, but Rachel is a force she hasn’t expected to battle, and all she can do is shoot daggers from her eyes, to the delight of the audience. She resorts to innuendo and rumor to break the woman’s spell, and her frustration seems to overcome her expectations of a happy ending.

Louise (Emily Kearns) and Philip (Anthony teNyenhuis)

Adams has a stately presence, tinged with dismay as Philip follows paths he perceives as recklessness. His is the voice of reason, which is usually ignored.

Kelly Ventura ventures from the fantasy world of Visalia’s Enchanted Playhouse to become Rainaldi, an old friend of Rachel’s, who arrives to provoke questions about her motives. Around his Italian accent, he builds more subtlety than I have ever seen from him. Welcome to the Fresno stage, Mr. Ventura!

Rachel (Brooke) and Rainaldi (Kelly Ventura)

Amidst the quietly modulated accents of his castmates, Thomas Nance’s broad Cornwallisms stand out. As the butler who runs the manor with enthusiasm, he seems ready to burst from the confines of his role. Kristina Clark, as a young servant, is a betrousered sprite who is often part of a scene before she is noticed.

Ginger Kay Lewis Reed is GCP’s costuming queen, and she makes people look good when they’re supposed to look good, and she makes Aiello look GOOD! Imagine Queen Elizabeth I dressed as Queen Victoria in mourning, and you begin to catch the vision Ginger has created. As Rachel emerges from her widow’s weeds, color explodes in passionate waves. The men don’t look like penguins; they appear as people of the era who might wear those clothes.

David Pierce presents us with the classic English country estate…with subtle twists: lamps that appear in mirrors, walls of stone. Lighting at the 2nd Space doesn’t often acquire sweep and cinematic qualities, but Joielle Adams has created a visual environment that changes tone and irises down to pools of intensity in moments. The key to this production is that things happen before you realize it, in the actions and in the atmosphere. Heather Parish pulls the human elements into an intense experience that blends with the technical realm of the theatre.

See My Cousin Rachel and be entrapped in Daphne du Maurier’s world of mystery, deceit, and tragic betrayal, where the romance is noir, and the love is unforgiving.

The 2nd Space Theatre is at 928 E. Olive Ave. in Fresno. For tickets and further information, go to www.gcplayers.com, or call (559) 266-9494, or check out KRL’s Good Company Players event page.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can also find the podcast on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean. Kelly Ventura is featured on episodes of the podcast, and has another one coming up this winter.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is a librarian with Fresno County Public Library.

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